MindMaze – Mask of Lies
Female fronted power metal is definitely nothing short of common nowadays, and while the bands trying to break through can easily be lost in the sea of similar sounds (you know, the traditional power metal riffs, galloping drums and airy operatic vocals) one band, in my opinion, has really been able to stand out from the rest. MindMaze is an independent progressive, power metal band hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania in the United States. While power metal is hard enough to come across in the states, it’s even more rare to find such a professional, polished, and well-honed female voice leading the way. Their debut album hit the scene in February of 2013, and has been continually talked about since, and rightfully so. This is a near masterpiece of melodic metal music.
The first three songs on the album are non-stop melodies, harmonies, and great musicianship all around. On top of amazing songwriting, the band sounds much larger than a four-piece thanks to fantastic and extremely professional production. “Never Look Back” kicks the album off with in your face drumming and, immediate attention grabbing lead guitar work courtesy of Jeff Teets. When Sarah Teets’ crystal clear, clean vocals come in, it’s plain to see why this band has gotten the attention they have. Kalin Schweizerhof’s drumming doesn’t let up as a great galloping pattern begins throughout the verses, accompanied well by moving bass lines from Rich Pasqualone. It’s clear from the start that individually, the musicianship is astounding and every member shines on their own, while still managing to work together so well.
Starting off as a slower tune, “This Holy War” is a powerful song beginning with acoustic guitar and keyboard touches over light drumming and bass lines. Of course the song progresses into a much heavier tune, with powerful and personal lyrics that we would all agree on, “we don’t need this holy war”. This is definitely the most ‘single-worthy’ track on the album as within just a couple listens I was singing and humming along with the melodies. The layering, in both the guitar and the vocals is hauntingly beautiful and the atmospheric piano touches are perfectly arranged along with them.
Topping some of my favorite songs released in 2013 is the over eleven-minute epic, “Dark City (Dreaming This Life)”, adorning the last half of the album. This song particularly shows the band’s more progressive side as it is a true roller coaster of down-tempo emotional moments, and heavy as hell riffing.
Bringing the album to its close is “Destiny Calls” which begins with a great flute melody, but quickly turns into a fast galloping riff. The chorus particularly sticks out thanks to the great vocal work and beautiful lyrics: “Set sail again to find all the answers, living the life, taking the fall. Dreaming of hope, we’ll never find it, the horizon beckons us all, and destiny calls.” Paired with the accompanied chanting of those last few words, it’s truly a great feeling song. The harmonized guitar work that brings this song to an end in its last couple minutes, and the chorus repeating into its close, is a phenomenal way to end an outstanding album.
The strongest points on the album lie within the individual musicians and their amazing talent, but more importantly the way they have managed to create such amazing music together. The sad part of female-fronted metal of any genre is most people only notice the vocalist, and all other musicians are lost because they aren’t nearly as attractive to the typical male audience. Being a female in the metal world, that was always my biggest complaint. I have a lot of respect for MindMaze, because yes they have a beautiful front-woman, but the other musicians behind are just as demanding and deserving of attention.
As a promoter of independent music, I can’t help but stress that I see so much promise in this young band, and am looking forward to their next full length album in 2014.
Sarah Teets – Lead Vocals
Jeff Teets – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Rich Pasqualone – Bass, Backing Vocals
Kalin Schweizerhof – Drums
Also featured on Mask of Lies:
John Gaffney (Sinister Realm) – Bass on “This Holy War”, “Cosmic Overture”, “Fading Skies”, “Mask of Lies”, “Destiny Calls”
Lord Tim (Lord, Blackened Angel) – Lead Guitar on “Destiny Calls” at 4:27-4:36 and 4:46-4:55
You can download the entire album for only $8 at their BandCamp: http://mindmazeband.bandcamp.com/